Catalan Cooking with Codorniu

Tapas are extremely popular here in London but Spanish cuisine has a lot more to offer then jamon y queso. Rachel McCormack feels it’s her mission to bring the “other” cuisines of Spain to London. To that end, she has set up her own small cooking classes, called Catalan Cooking. Roughly twice a month, Rachel takes over the normally sweet tooth haven of Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s and transforms it into a Catalan cuisine inspired cafe. Rachel is of Scottish origin but spent her formative years (read: her 20’s) kicking around Catalonia, mostly in Barcelona where she “…caught the Catalonian obsession with food…” as she says.  There she took every opportunity to hang out with the mama’s in their kitchens, learning their secrets, visiting markets and restaurants and generally soaking up as much as she could about the Catalan cuisine. She’s teamed up with former executive chef of Asia de Cuba, Franz Schinagl, who also runs his own supper club out of Bea’s,  to not only bring a taste of Catalan to us Londoners but also show us how to do it.   Our menu was expertly matched by the Spanish cava makers Codorniu and featured some of their very best cava. My favourite of the evening has to be the 2008 Reina Cristina Blanc de Noirs. It is their top of the line and was created in 1997 to honour the Queen Regent Maria Cristina who gave Codorniu their royal warrant in 1897. The 2008 Blanc de noir is the first Spanish blanc de noir and comes from some of the oldest pinot noir vineyards in Spain. An elegant sparkler, it has plenty of subtle fruity notes and bouncy bubbles while at the same time not being too aggressive on the tongue. It was served with our main course(s) and was delicious with our samples of all 7 dishes. Through out the evening we were able to sample Codorniu’s range of cavas and Rachel will be serving this menu up again along with the...

read more

Listz in the cellar, visiting the Kirnbauer Vineyards, Austria

I´ve heard of abattoirs in the UK that play classical music to the animals while they are waiting for the chop and  on a more pleasant note, people have been known to play classical music to their unborn children but classical music in a wine cellar? For the barrels? Well, why not?  They are slowly “growing up” as the French refer to maturation (elevage)  in the barrel. We were listening to the soft strains of Listz while down in the very modern wine cellar of  Kirnbauer Vineyards just outside Duetshkreuz, Mittleburg, Austria. Their cellar is very new replete with a plexiglass walkway above the cellar so you can look down and see the barrels while walking above them. Conversly, Markus says in summer, it’s also fun to be in the cellar looking up….the boys seemed to agree with that statement…but anyway… Listz was born just 5 kms away and the winemakers thought it would be nice to have local boy playing along to the local grapes. Kirnbauer is a family owned and operated  vineyard near the town of Deutschkreuz, amongst the hills of Mittleberg and close to the Neusiedlrsee.  Together, they create a unique microclimate that allows for the grapes to flourish, the hills protecting them from the winds and the shallow sea creating a warm pocket for the grapes to grow. An interesting tidbit I picked up on my trip to Burgenland with a group of winebloggers after the European Winebloggers Confernce in Austria recently. Kirnbauer specialize in blaufrankisch and, indeed the area is known as blaufrankischland because it grows so well there. A red varietal that is the specialty of Austria, blaufrankisch is a mineral laden red wine that comes from mostly the East of Austria in the area known as Burgenland. Often sporting boysenberry and red berry flavours, spice and slate notes with, depending on the area and style, either mouth coating tannins or round and elegant, it´s  red wine that´s hard to ignore. While I was in Burgenland, I tried many different blaufrankisch and many of them...

read more

What a pretty bottle -Elyssia, Spanish sparkling rose

Denise, would you like to come round to mine on Saturday for dinner? I can never resist a dinner invitation, especially if it’s from a good friend and so I found myself, on time for once, on the doorstep of my friend Luiz’ house with a bottle of the new Freixenet rosado sparkling wine, the Elyssia Pinot Noir Brut in hand. Freixenet, the Spanish cava usually found in it’s iconic black bottle with gold lettering is now launching a sparkling rosado wine. Freixenet has long been a big player in the cava stakes, being part of the Codorniu group, it has a wealth of expertise, state of the art wineries and plenty of marketing muscle behind it to launch a rosado sparkling on the market. The Elyssia is a blend of 85% pinot noir and 15% trepat which is a varietal native to Catalonia, it is often used in cava blends to give a uniquely Catalonian spin to the wines. We decided to have the Elyssia as an aperitif. When I pulled out the box, there were lots of oohs and ahhs, they definitely have not skimped on the marketing. The box it comes in is very smart, a soft pink with a defining silver stripe running down the middle, it looked like a very expensive champagne box. The bottle is also well posh, clear and in the shape of traditional champagne bottles, it looked very pretty sitting on the table. So how did it taste? Well, it was fine as an aperitif. I didn’t really find much in the way of defining characteristics. It was a pleasant little bit of sparkle to the evening but I thought it should have been a bit more flavourful. Seeing as it’s a pinot noir brut, I was expecting lots of red berries and red fruits on the nose and palate but didn’t really find much on either. A pleasant sparkly, not offensive in any way. I’ve had other Rosado cavas from Spain and this one, well...

read more

Aldo Rainoldi from the Valtellina DOCG, Italy

They call them viticoltori eroici (heroic winemakers) and looking from the valley floor up to the steep slopes above us, it seems most appropriate that any winemaker who chooses to plant his vines on the slopes of the foothills of the Alps deserves that moniker. We were driving through the province of Sondrio, in the AOC of  Valtellina, where the nebbiolo grape is grown on the slopes of the Adda River valley. The valley faces east to west and is the only one of it’s kind in Italy. The vineyards here are located at between 300 – 600 metres and  are south facing to catch as much sun as possible. They are a series of stonewall supported terraces that climb high up the sides of the mountains. It was hard not to be impressed by the patchwork of vines scattered on the hillsides. Wine has been made here since at least the 5th century and the wines have been famous within the region for almost as long but they haven’t achieved much renown beyond Switzerland or Middle Europe which is a pity because outside of Piedmont, the nebbiolo (or chiavennasca as it’s locally known) grape thrives in the long, cool growing season of Valtellina.       There are 4 classes of wine in the valley but we were lucky enough to be treated to some of the best, the Sforzato di Valtellina DOCG and Valtellina Superiore DOC. The criteria for the wines for the DOCG and DOC that they must be 90% nebbiolo and the other 10% can only be non-aromatic red grapes. The Sforzata has an added condition in that the grapes are air dryed until Dec 10th and must come from Valtellina Superiore and/or rosso di Valtellina. The Sforzata wines have often been compared to Amarone because the process is the similar but the wine that is produced is very different due to factors such as climate, terroir, clones, etc.       Lorenzo, our guide for the trip, wanted us...

read more

Cruase – Italian sparkling rose, yes, I said rose, wine

It’s Italian week here on the Winesleuth. Yes, more stories and wine finds from my recent trip through Lombardy in Northern Italy. I like rosés and like sparkling rosés even more. Italy’s not really known for their rosés, let alone sparkling rosés but that’s all about to change thanks to the Oltrepò Pavese consortium. Oltrepò Pavese is located in the region of Pavia, Lombardy on the 45th parallel, the same as the region of Burgundy and like Burgundy, the region has historically grown pinot noir or pinot nero, as they call it in Italy. The Consortio Tutela Vini Oltrepò Pavese has taken as it’s mission to produce naturally sparkling rosé wines from the region and launch them onto the world. Cruasé is their sparkling rose, the name being a hybrid of the words cru and rosé. In an interesting twist, while researching the history of the region, it was discovered that in the 17th century, cruà was the name given to vines and the wines that were produced in the region. Cruasé is made in the  traditional method and have a minimum of 85% pinot nero with the remainder being made up of the local varieties. It’s a DOCG wine which means that there is are strict rules and regulations regarding the production of the wine before it can be labeled and  sold as Cruasé. I was quite delighted to be offered a glass of sparkling rosé as soon as I arrived at the restaurant, straight off the plane. We tried Cruasés from various producers and I found most of them to be clean and fresh but not terribly exciting. The reservas, however, now there was something to get excited about. Aged 24 months on the lees, these were the ones that I liked best but you know, I always go for the oldies. The wine was showing very nicely, candied red fruits on the nose and palate with that familiar aroma of a bakery on a early Saturday morning hovering above the glass....

read more

Riccardo prosecco on a hot Sunday afternoon

Sometimes style does count over substance. I went to a new supper club not long ago and while the food was serviceable, it was really the setting and  atmosphere that bowled me over. It was the Old Hat Supper Club, a new one recently set up in Islington and I was there as a guest of Riccardo prosecco. Riccardo had invited me and a few of my foodie friends to sample their wares in a supper club setting. Riccardo prosecco is launching here in the UK and they thought it would be a rather novel idea to use a supper club, which are all the rage now here in London. They kindly donated the prosecco for our lunch.  We started off with a cocktail of prosecco di Valdobbiadene, strawberry and basil which while sweet also managed to be quite refreshing and as it was a hot summer afternoon, very much appreciated. That has to be one of the advantages of using prosecco, fizz without the exorbitant price tag and if you’re going to adulterate your wine, why use champagne when prosecco works just as well. We had a still prosecco or vino tranquilo as they call it, with the starter of stone oven baked sardines with tomatoes and herbs. I’ve only ever had still prosecco once before, but I do enjoy it. Although it is still, it does have a few lazy bubbles. Still prosecco is made from 100% prosecco grapes. Many people do not realize that prosecco is not only the name of the wine but also the grape. A lovely aperitif, apples and pears on the nose with a some flowery notes wafting about, on the palate, a lively wine with more of those great appley flavours, it washed down the sardines easily which were very… sardine-y. The main of pork belly and crackling was served with two proseccos, the vino spumante extra dry DOC Prosecco di Valdobbiadene and the Cartizze which is the top end of the Riccardo prosecco line. Prosecco di Valdobiadene comes...

read more
%d bloggers like this: